Tuesday, January 22, 2013

Mead's Typology of American Ideology

Full Fathom Five: 5.0 Liberalism and the Future of the State:

I was discussing the standard two dimensional, four part typology of American ideology in my Public Policy class today and then I ran across this posy by Walter Russell Mead. In discussing the troubles of the "Blue State Model," his term for the high tax/high level of services model of social policy that prevails in the so called Blue States, he lays out a different typology of American ideologies based on the area of the country in which they originated and the chief theoretical and political proponent of those ideologies. The dimensions on which ideologies differ are three instead of two: the size of the state, the scope of the state and the degree of centralization of the state (in the American context the division of powers between the state and central governments).

The New England Puritan tradition: strong state, involvement in social issues, centralized. This tradition wants a strong and centralized state that will be the moral agent of the community, taking a leading role in the moral improvement of the citizenry.

The New York, Hamiltonian tradition: Strong state, intervening to strengthen economic growth but staying out of moral issues, centralized.

The Virginia, Jeffersonian tradition: Weak state, staying out of moral issues but sometimes intervening in the economy to protect against the kinds of large businesses fostered by the Hamiltonians, decentralized, states over federal governments and local governments before state governments.

The West Virginal, Jacksonian tradition: strong state, intervening in moral issues (though often disagreeing with the New England tradition about what moral issues are important) but intervening in the economy on the side of the little guy and even supporting direct benefits to the citizenry from the state, supportive of the central government.

Mead argues that most political debate is less about specific policy questions than it is about which of these four models or grand theories of the proper role of the state and aims towards which government should be directed should predominate. This leads to a lot of purely practical questions about how policies designed for the 1930s should be adapted to current conditions, or, as Mead puts it, "it has turned the question of the transformation out of industrial Fordism into a question of political philosophy in the United States."

This is the meaning of the post's title, Liberalism 5.0. Liberalism 4.0 dominated the 20th century but the economics of strong family formation and constant or increasing population, well-defined gender roles and lifetime employment at large industrial firms that supported it are no more.


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